A cost effective and simple system that allows mothers to give a life-saving dose of an anti-HIV medication to their newborns has been developed by Duke University biomedical engineers.
This is especially important since such drugs can only be found in clinics or hospitals, which can be days away from an expectant mother.
In order to be effective, the drug, known as Nevirapine, must be given to the newborn within days of birth. The challenge to date has been reaching distant mothers who give birth at home. Since most mothers are not up to traveling that soon after delivery to get medication, the biomedical engineers developed a way of providing the medication in a simple manner and with a long shelf-life, pouches made of foil and plastic that can hold a single dose of Nevirapine. In Africa, the World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that more than 90 percent of 430,000 new cases of AIDS in 2008 were attributable to mother-to-child transmission," said Carolina Gamache, program coordinator in senior researcher Robert Malkin's Developing World Healthcare Technology Laboratory at Duke's Pratt School of Engineering. "A single dose of Nevirapine right after birth has been shown to be effective in protecting the baby from the virus, but it has been difficult for many reasons to make this option available to women who give birth at home."
Gamache presented the results of the Duke research in London at the Appropriate Healthcare Technologies for Developing Countries conference, which is sponsored by WHO and the Institute of Engineering and Technology.